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She was a 25-year-old junior staffer when the Florida Republican Party gave her an American Express card. Over the next 2½ years, nearly $1.3 million in charges wound up on Melanie Phister's AmEx — $40,000 at a London hotel....
her credit card records, obtained by the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald, offer the latest behind-the-scenes look at extravagant and free-wheeling spending by the party touting fiscal restraint.
In all, about $458,000 in AmEx charges like these were racked up by former House Speaker Marco Rubio, his now-indicted successor Ray Sansom, and the man set to lead the chamber in November, Dean Cannon, according to a St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald computer analysis of Republican Party of Florida charge card statements for nearly two years ending in 2009.
The part-time lawmakers paid for little of it. Republican Party donors, mostly corporate interests seeking favorable legislation from lawmakers, picked up the bulk of it.